Lumber, laws and lessons learned

“We need to be the watchdog.” — Chris Yenrick, Smith Phillips Building Supply

You’ve heard of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” But how about Smith Phillips Building Supply goes to Raleigh?

Here’s the story.

Chris Yenrick, president of Smith Phillips in Winston-Salem, N.C., was skimming through an obscure, state-government newsletter one day when he stumbled upon some disturbing news. North Carolina was about to hit pro dealers with some costly regulation.

And Carolina dealers weren’t even warned.

At issue were rules governing articulating boom trucks. The state was about to adopt a set of guidelines drawn up by OSHA on the national level — far-reaching crane rules that didn’t take into account the business practices of pro dealers.

“They had sent the proposal to builders, but builders don’t use cranes,” said Yenrick, the incoming chairman of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA). “No one had sent them to us.”

Acting fast, with the help of the Southern Building Material Association and a lobbyist from the NLBMDA, Yenrick was part of a group that won a delay in the implementation, and then an exemption for the industry from certain costly certification regulations.

It just goes to show, Yenrick said, if you’re not watching out for your own industry’s interests, anything can happen. And it probably will.

“We got in there and they heard us,” he said. “That was a very, very eye-opening experience.”

As incoming chair of the NLBMDA — a post he will enter during the 2013 ProDealer Industry Summit Oct. 23-25 in Nashville, Tenn. — Yenrick says his goal is to help build a louder voice for dealers and get more people involved in legislative issues. He also hopes to grow the Lumber Dealers Political Action Committee (LuDPAC).

“I feel as an independent dealer and as a lumber dealer, that all of us need to come together,” Yenrick said. “Both the national chains and the independent dealers need to make sure that we have a voice up on Capitol Hill, that promotes healthy regulation in our industry. We need to be the watchdog. Lawmakers at that level sometimes don’t think of the ramifications at the user level.”

Sometimes they don’t even read their own rules — which Yenrick says is one of the most eye-opening observations from the North Carolina crane episode.

In past years, Yenrick served as regulatory issues committee chair, as well as LuDPAC chair. In 2011, he was recognized as the NLBMDA’s “Grassroots Dealer of the Year.”

The incoming chair says the NLBMDA deserves much credit for improving its effectiveness and financial standing during the difficult housing downturn.

“Sometimes the stars have to align to make things happen,” Yenrick said. “But you got to keep on plugging away.”

For information about the ProDealer Industry Summit, visit

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